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From ‘new materialism’ to ‘machinic assemblage’: agency and affect in IKEA


  • Tom Roberts


New materialist theory has destabilized the figure of the sovereign subject by exploring matter’s capacity to pose questions on its own terms. Such critique engages a growing concern for embodied modes of agency that exceed the intentions of human subjects. Exploring nonhuman agency through material capacities, ‘affect’ is a concept that poses new questions to the everyday circulations and assemblages of well-known sites. Viewed through an affectual lens, contemporary sites of consumption exceed their economic conditions of emergence, requiring approaches that acknowledge the ontological import of material reorganisation. By revisiting the work of Felix Guattari, this paper enacts a ‘machinic’ engagement with IKEA, situating a fundamentally engineered assemblage within virtual ecologies of nonhuman relation. Framed by a sustained ethnographic encounter with IKEA Bristol, I explore machinic assemblages of vibrations, molecules, and things. Through these material configurations, the IKEA assemblage makes uncertain interventions upon a ‘nonorganic life’, continually experimenting with a body’s capacity to affect and to be affected. Guattari’s project displaces the emergence of the new away from the interiority of a subject, such that change takes place through a diversity of machinic connections. To address the fundamental political question of change, politics must look beyond the molar semiotics of subjects and objects, to engage with more subtle recompositions of affective capacities. Keywords: affect, consumption, Felix Guattari, machinic assemblage, new materialism

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Roberts, 2012. "From ‘new materialism’ to ‘machinic assemblage’: agency and affect in IKEA," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 44(10), pages 2512-2529, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:10:p:2512-2529

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